Upfronts: It’s All About Ads & The Economy

Advertisers like NBC’s and Fox’s decisions to add comedies to their fall lineups but say the clips shown to them today don’t show enough to suggest whether any will become hits. “Comedies are the hardest thing to do,” says Gary Carr of Targetcast. Even 30 Rock, a survivor on the NBC schedule, “goes over most people’s heads. It’s not doing that well.” One advertiser says that “what you see today (at the upfront presentations) is not necessarily going to be there (on the shows) in the fall.” Still, comedies are big this year because Modern Family demonstrated that they can get young people, and they repeat well. The two shows getting the most attention are NBC’s musical Smash and the network’s remake of the British hit Prime Suspect. “It made a star out of Helen Mirren,” Horizon Media’s Brad Adgate says.

At Fox, advertisers wonder whether there’ll be talent-contest overkill by airing Simon Cowell’s new The X Factor in the fall, followed by American Idol in the winter. “At some point it’s too much,” says Lyle Schwartz of GroupM. Buyers also aren’t sure yet whether Fox will attract much interest for its offer to sell ads that would run on a show when it airs on TV as well as across digital platforms such as Hulu. Although it “sounds good in theory,” one advertiser says, it may simply be “a way to get digital ad prices up.” Adgate says networks have been trying unsuccessfully for years to sell package deals. If a show is “crap on TV, then it’s crap everywhere else,” he says.